DMK minister V Senthil Balaji was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) during early hours on Wednesday, June 14, after an 18-hour long interrogation, and multiple raids across different locations in Chennai and Tamil Nadu. The action has been taken pertaining to an alleged money laundering case related to a job racket. V Senthil Balaji, is the Minister of Electricity, Excise, and Prohibition, in the Tamil Nadu cabinet led by CM MK Stalin. Balaji has been sent to judicial custody till June 28 by a local court.
Post his arrest, Balaji complained of chest discomfort, and he was taken to the Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital, Chennai at around 2.30 AM for a medical examination. He has been advised a bypass surgery.
As per DMK Rajya Sabha MP, NR Elango, Balaji’s arrest by the ED was ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, and that they will fight this legally. Udhayanidhi Stalin, son of Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin, visited, among other DMK leaders, Balaji in the hospital, and said that the DMK will take legal action against any violations involved in Balaji’s arrest. “We are not afraid of the threatening politics by the BJP-led centre”, added Stalin.
Tamil Nadu Law Minister, S Raghupathi, Balaji was ‘tortured and targeted’ by the ED, and Raghupathi said, “ED kept questioning him continuously for 24 hours. This is totally against human rights. The ED has to answer the people and the court”.
Reacting to the arrest, Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, issued a press release, and stated, “None of us in the opposition will be intimidated by such brazen news”, and called the arrest “political harassment and vendetta by the Modi government against those opposed to it”. NCP MLA Supriya Sule expressed, “95 percent of the CBI, ED cases are against the opposition, so I am not surprised at all”.
A statement was also released by AAP MP Raghav Chadha, stating, “This arrest is a part of the continued attack on India’s opposition”, and calling the arrest ‘inhumane’. Chadha added that this “raises serious concerns about the working methods of the ED”.
Releasing a statement, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, said, “They had pressured him to the point of him suffering a chest pain”, and questioned as to what the need for such a long probe was, even after Balaji assured complete cooperation to the interrogation. He also asked whether such ‘inhumane action’ from the ED officials was warranted.
“When there is an opposition party in power in a state, the ‘double engine’ government becomes the ‘double barrel’ government- the two barrels being the ED and the CBI”, commented Rajya Sabha MP, Kabil Sibal.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal expressed, “CBI and ED should be renamed as BJP’s army. We condemn the raid and arrest of a minister in Tamil Nadu. The manner in which the arrest has been made is also very objectionable”.
On the other hand, calling it ‘a complete drama by the DMK’, Tamil Nadu BJP Vice-President, Narayanan Thirupathy, called for the dismissal of V Senthil Balaji from the DMK ministry, and asked for his cooperation with the ED probe. Tamil Nadu BJP President K Annamalai asked CM MK Stalin as to why he was playing the ‘victim card’, sharing an old video of the CM, speaking about Balaji, who was earlier in the AIADMK, and the job-for-cash scam many years ago. Annamalai asked whether Stalin will now ‘refute’ his statement made earlier.
The case is an alleged job-for-cash scam in the Tamil Nadu transport department, which allegedly occurred during Senthil Balaji’s tenure as the transport minister from 2011-16. The case was booked in March, 2021, and a chargesheet was filed against Balaji and 46 others.
V Senthil Balaji’s interim bail petition has been adjourned till Thursday.